Today Cricket Australia announced the list of centrally contracted players for the coming summber (2012/13). The following are those who received contracts:
Michael Clarke, Patrick Cummins, Xavier Doherty, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, David Hussey, Mike Hussey, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson.
The glaring inclusion in the list is that of Mitchell Johnson. Based on form over at least the last 12 months of test cricket he has played and in his return to first class cricket after his toe injury he surely can not be Australia’s top 17 players available for test match selection. On the assumption that our test team will only ever include 3 fast bowlers, I can not imagine that he is ahead of any of Cummins, Harris, Hilfenhaus, Pattinson, Siddle or Starc on form and, indeed, recent reputation.
I am also surprised that Doherty has received a contract. Based on recent selections he is behind both Lyon and Beer in the spin bowling pecking order. Indeed he has a bowler ahead of him based on test squad selections, in the form of Beer, who bowls in precisely the same fashion as he does. This is a strange inclusion if test cricket is your focus.
I have made much on twitter about Cowan’s exclusion however I confess that I can see the logic in not including him based on his form to date. Equally, I would have though that if Cricket Australia considers him important enough to the Australian set up to make him captain of the Australian A team touring England this winter, they really should have thought him within the core of Australian players who received a contract. Could it be that the plan is for Watson to open with Warner in the Ashes?
I will be interested to see if David Hussey’s inclusion in the contract list means he is the next in line for a test match spot. I would find it surprising if that is the case with calibre of young batsmen waiting in the wings. Shaun Marsh seems to have done himself out of the running after his troubles in the Border-Gavasker Trophy. That said, Peter Forrest has done everything asked of him and was in the squad for the Frank Worrell Trophy whilst Liam Davis, Tom Cooper and Bob Quiney set the Sheffield Shield alight last summer. If our next test batsmen is supposed to come from the contract list then the selectors have missed the mark.
I should say here that I do not dispute that players in other forms of the game ought also be recognised and receive recompense for their services. In the context however of an alleged focus on test cricket from Cricket Australia in these contracts then players who are specialist short form players seem out of place.
A final comment: the Sheffield Shield champions from last year have only managed to have one player considered in the top 17 players in the country. If nothing else that much show that the days of the Sheffield Shield and form shown in domestic cricket being the principal basis for selection in Australia’s national squad are fast disappearing.